Mosses in Lawns and Gardens

News Article

Mosses are adaptable, opportunistic plants.  They thrive in a wide variety of locations, but are most often found in moist, shady sites.  Mosses are common in many lawns and gardens this year.  The abundant rainfall last year provided favorable growing conditions for mosses. 
 
Control of Mosses in Lawns
 
Mosses don't harm or kill turfgrass plants.  However, mosses grow in thin, weak lawns.  Poor turfgrass vigor is often due to excessive shade, low fertility, poor drainage, compacted soil, or any combination of the above. 
 
Mosses can be temporarily removed by hand raking.  (Mosses don't have true roots and rake up easily.)  However, the underlying conditions responsible for the poor stand of grass must be corrected to achieve a permanent solution. 
 
If shade is a factor, prune low-hanging branches of trees and shrubs to allow more light into the area.  Plant shade tolerant grasses in shady areas.  The fine-leaf fescues (creeping red fescue, hard fescue, and chewings fescue) tolerate considerable shade. 
 
Conduct a soil test to determine the soil pH and nutrient levels.  If the soil is deficient in phosphorus or potassium or needs liming, the soil test report will indicate which materials to apply and the proper amounts.  If adequate levels of phosphorus are present, choose a lawn fertilizer containing no additional phosphorus when fertilizing the lawn.  The best times to fertilize lawns in Iowa are spring, September, and late October/early November. 
 
Compacted soils can be improved by aerating the lawn with a core aerator in spring or fall.  Core aeration should improve water infiltration and promote drying of moist soils. 
 
Control of Mosses in Gardens
 
Mosses in perennial beds and other landscape areas are typically found in damp, shady locations.  As in lawns, mosses don't harm perennials, shrubs, trees, or other ornamentals.  If you find their presence objectionable, remove mosses with a rake or other garden tool.  To discourage mosses from coming back, periodically loosen the upper one to two inches of soil with a hoe or hand cultivator.  This will promote drying of the soil surface.

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Richard Jauron Extension Program Specialist II

Provide horticultural information to home gardeners and extension staff via the telephone, written communication (Horticulture and Home Pest News, Yard and Garden,  and extension publications), radio, computer (Internet and e-mail), and live presentations.   Also assist with the Master ...